Posted on November 4, 2013 by


Hey Dave – 

What is the difference between vegetarian fed and grass fed chicken? I can’t find grass fed chicken anywhere in my area. Even whole foods only has vegetarian fed chicken. I’m not sure I’m getting the best poultry for my body. Whole foods rating system even has vegetation fed chicken at a 4, their highest rating. I’m I ok eating vegetarian fed chicken?

 Carol, IL


Hello Carol,

 The best chicken to eat is not grass-fed but pastured . This means the birds are actually outside on pasture for most of their lives.  These chickens eat some grass, a lot of insects, and usually some supplemental feed.  Pastured poultry is capable of producing the finest meat and eggs but a lot still depends on the individual farmer’s practices.

Vegetarian fed means the birds have not been given animal by-products.  This is a good thing but how are they getting protein?  Chickens require high protein for both meat and egg production so if this is not satisfied with insects or animal products there needs to be heavy supplemental feed.  The only vegetarian feed capable of meeting the high protein levels are made mostly of soy and corn.

So far the pastured poultry movement is still gaining momentum, eggs have started showing up in larger chain stores labeled ‘pastured, soy/corn free.’  You may have noticed the price tag – usually about $7/dozen. I have not yet seen pasture raised meat birds in larger stores but I am certain they will be arriving soon.

For now I suggest scouring the farmers markets and connecting with local growers.  Supply may be limited but remember that this is a relatively new method of production – farmers need to know you are interested so they can raise more next season.


pastured poultry


This is pastured poultry in action!  These pens are moved each day to give the birds fresh greens, bugs, and a clean bed.  The field gets fertilized, the birds are happy, and we get delicious chicken.

Dreaming of green pastures,


Posted in: Ask Dave